Matt Simpson stands in front of his extensive card collection. He is holding a 1914 B18 Blanket George Gibson, which is just one of the rare Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame-related items he owns.

June 21, 2024

By Kevin Glew 

Cooperstowners in Canada 

For Matt Simpson, a George Gibson card is as treasured as a Honus Wagner card. 

That’s what happens when you focus your collection on Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductees. 

Simpson, who just returned from this year’s Canadian ball hall induction ceremony in St. Marys, Ont., on Saturday, has been diligently pursuing cards of Canadian Baseball Hall of Famers for several years. 

“It’s been a pretty big passion project of mine,” said Simpson. 

It’s a “project” that has inspired him to track down at least one card of every Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee, if they have one. His passion for collecting cards was reignited when he began buying cards for his son, Evan, about six years ago. 

“I was always a baseball card collector as a kid. I never really collected hockey and I never played hockey growing up,” said Simpson, who has been a Toronto Blue Jays fan since the team’s inception. “1987 O-Pee-Chee was the first set that I really remember working on.” 

Simpson still has some of those cards, but these days he’s focused on Canadian baseball legends.  

In total, there are 161 Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductees. Of those, only 89 are former players and some of those are amateur players without a card from a major manufacturer. The rest of the inductees are executives, umpires, coaches, broadcasters, scouts and teams that, for the most part, don’t have a card from a major manufacturer.  

This makes collecting more manageable for Simpson, but it’s still very challenging, especially tracking down cards of long deceased inductees. 

“The older cards are much more difficult to find, which makes it more fun for me,” said Simpson. “A lot of what I’ve been doing are pre-war cards like George Gibson, Tip O’Neill, George Wood and Larry McLean.” 

Simpson gets excited when talking about the Canadian Baseball Hall of Famers – O’Neill, Wood, Arthur Irwin, Bill Phillips and Pop Smith – featured on cards in the 1887 to 1890 Old Judge Cigarettes series. 

“That set has about eight or nine poses of each player, but they’re not cheap,” said Simpson. 

He owns at least one card of each Canadian ball hall inductee from that series. 

Simpson has also secured a card of each of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Famers in the famous T205 and T206 tobacco sets. The latter set houses the famous Honus Wagner tobacco card that is now worth in the millions. 

“The T205 set is my favourite of that era,” said Simpson. 

One of his Holy Grail cards is the 1916 Zee-Nut Jimmy Claxton. Born in Wellington, B.C., Claxton, who was Black, played for the Oakland Oaks of the Pacific Coast League in 1916, posing as a Native American before his heritage became public. The Oaks then released him but not before the Zee-Nut card was manufactured. This is widely recognized as the first American card to feature a Black player. 

“I actually did see that card come up for auction, but it is way above my pay grade,” said Simpson, who’s a partner and managing director at Clariti Strategic Advisors in downtown Toronto. “That card goes for a very, very high price even in poor grade.” 

One Claxton card that was graded 1.5 out of 10 sold for $7,380 in a Huggins and Scott Auction in August 2022.  

Simpson also savors some of the post-World War II cards of Canadian Baseball Hall of Famers. He cites his 1954 Topps Tommy Lasorda and 1959 Topps Sparky Anderson rookie cards as two of his favourites. Both Lasorda and Anderson were inducted into the Canadian ball shrine for their tenures north of the border before becoming legendary big-league managers. 

Simpson also owns a PSA MINT 9 1966 Topps Fergie Jenkins rookie card (Note: Cards are graded out of 10 with the highest grade being a PSA GEM-MINT 10).  

“You don’t see a lot of Fergie rookies in that condition, so that’s definitely one of my crown jewels,” said Simpson. 

One card he is still missing is a 1948 Leaf Jackie Robinson rookie. Robinson was inducted into the Canadian ball hall posthumously for his trailblazing season with the Montreal Royals in 1946. 

“That card in low-grade will probably go for about $10,000,” explained Simpson. “Eventually I’ll get one.” 

Simpson may not have the 1948 Leaf Jackie Robinson rookie, but he does have a 1953 Topps Robinson card.

Simpson, who has thousands of Canadian baseball cards in his collection, has created a want list that he keeps in a pocket notebook. 

He has built his collection through online auction houses, eBay and at local card shows. He also co-organizes a biannual card show in the West End of Toronto. 

And it should be noted that Simpson isn’t strictly focused on Canadian Baseball Hall of Famers. He does have cards of baseball greats like Willie Mays and Hank Aaron, as well as Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. He also likes to collect vintage Canadian baseball cards in general — and the older and rarer the better. 

“The focus of my collection is Canadian related cards. So, the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame is really what I’ve centered a lot of my collection around, but then I also collect cards from Canadian teams, especially pre-war,” he explained. “So, I collect Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Royals cards. I’ve got a [Bill Blair] card from the Hamilton Hams from the 1887 Old Judge series that is the only PSA-graded copy.” 

Attending the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s induction ceremony for the past six years with his son has further fueled his passion and has gotten him into collecting autographs. 

“It’s more about the experience of getting the autographs,” said Simpson. 

The goal of his collection, he says, is “to assemble and preserve as complete a record as possible of the history of baseball in Canada as told through one of the original pop art mediums: trading cards.” 

With thousands of cards in his collection, I would say he has achieved his goal. But he’s still looking to add more Canadian cards. 

“I don’t think a day goes by when I’m not sitting down and thumbing through a card catalogue or auction sites looking for more cards,” said Simpson.  

*All photos are cards from Matt Simpson’s collection.

The post Collector Profile: Matt Simpson, collecting cards of Canadian Baseball Hall of Famers  appeared first on Cooperstowners in Canada.